I always forget how short Black Lightning’s seasons are. Last week, we learned about the origins of Gravedigger and said goodbye to Khalil. Now, we’ve reached the second to last episode. The episode opens with Gravedigger explaining his motives for attacking Freeland to a camera. He explains that the US government experimented on him 80 years ago, making him the first metahuman. He also explains how he got his name. Back in World War II, he dug graves for fallen soldiers. He continued the task after the experiment, burying every person he killed. Assuming there was enough of him left to bury. So our new villain has his own righteous convictions motivating his actions.
It’s worse than that, though. As Dr. Jace and Lynn figure out, because he is the first meta, the power serum Lynn created works differently on him. Not only can he use the other metas’ powers indefinitely, there’s no limit to how many powers he can inject himself with at once. These past few episodes have built him into an interesting, scary villain. I can’t wait to see the coming showdown. It’s going to happen soon too. Gravedigger plans to take every metahuman in Freeland back to Markovia, killing anyone who refuses to go with him. And if that wasn’t enough of a bad situation for Black Lightning to deal with, if Gravedigger isn’t defeated, the government will nuke the city. Great. Why not?
Honestly, I wish Gravedigger had been the big bad all season. His presence on the show has focused the last few episodes of Black Lightning, producing the best TV its had all season. And now it’s about to end. I’m not one of those people who insist that for a villain to well-written, they have to believe that what they’re doing is right. Some people are misanthropic assholes, and it’s totally possible to write an interesting story where that kind of person is the bad guy. But Gravedigger’s sense of morality is refreshing in a villain. Especially since it’s not just him that believes he’s on the right side. Even Gambi acknowledges that Gravedigger has a point. Metas are being held captive, experimented on and enslaved. He wants to take them all to Markovia, not to build an army, but for freedom. It’s an admirable goal, if only he weren’t killing people and causing a city to be destroyed in the process. Oh, and Lynn compares Gravedigger’s DNA to Jefferson’s and finds a match. The reason he and his daughters are the only stable metas is that Gravedigger is Jeff’s great uncle. I love how complicated this conflict is getting.
This being the season’s penultimate episode, there’s an undercurrent of fatalism that runs through all of this. The episode does a great job of setting up how dangerous Gravedigger is. Despite Jenn being the most powerful meta in Freeland, Jeff refuses to put her on the front line. Gambi points out that here’s no reason to keep her on backup, unless he really doesn’t believe he can defeat Gravedigger. Later, Lynn asks Jeff to put aside his code against killing people just this once. He’s not fond of that advice, but on some level, he knows he might have to kill to keep his daughters safe.
Speaking of his daughters, Anissa invites everyone over for a family dinner. They all think it might be their last chance to have one. When everyone arrives, Anissa and Grace reveal it’s not a last supper. It’s a wedding. She and Grace are going to get married before the war the next day. Everyone’s happy to have something to celebrate and take their minds off what’s coming. Even this happy event has an air of dread. Though Anissa would be marrying Grace no matter what, she admits that it might not have been as soon had they not possibly been about to die. The event is still more sweet than bittersweet, though. Grace is clearly overjoyed to be part of a family after years of having none, and the Pierces are happy to have her. I love all of them so much, and will be so pissed if anything happens to them in the finale.
They’re forced to cut the wedding ceremony short, though. Jenn finds out that Gravedigger is approaching Freeland, so she ducks out early to get a first shot at him. It almost works too. She gathers as much energy as she can and divebombs Gravedigger and his squad. After the explosion, everyone who was standing around Gravedigger is on the ground, out of the picture. Gravedigger is still standing. He pitches his idea of metahuman freedom to Jenn, but she blasts him with electricity. That’s when the real fight starts and Jenn realizes she’s in over her head. Painkiller appears unaffected by her lightning blasts, and tosses her into the electrified perimeter. She takes a huge shock and is sent flying, unconscious into the air.
Fortunately, Jefferson is already on the way to start the battle. When he and Gambi realize it’s her, Jefferson catches her and brings her safely to the ground. But he doesn’t feel a pulse. He has to shock Jenn’s heart to restart it, which is a really cool parallel with Season One. Two years ago, Jenn revived her father after Painkiller stopped his heart. Now, he’s doing the same thing for his daughter. It’s a heartwarming bit of symmetry. Jefferson revives Jenn just in time for Gravedigger to show up. Now Jefferson is mad. The kind of rage you only see when you put someone’s kid in danger. The kind that should immediately tell you how bad you’ve messed up. Jeff doesn’t look like he’s thinking too much about his code now. He gathers a ton of electric energy and runs straight for Gravedigger. And of course that’s where the episode ends.
Man, Black Lightning has really been in high gear ever since the show introduced Gravedigger. It’s amazing what a good villain will do for a superhero show. I’m a little sad it’s ending next week just as the season gets really good. The show really is doing everything it set out to do here. The situation feels appropriately dire. Not only is Black Lightning facing what feels like his toughest villain yet, there are even more dangers waiting even if Gravedigger is defeated. Lady Eve is working with the ASA, Lala is torturing people looking for Tobias, and Painkiller’s back. Yep, as Khalil tried to leave Freeland, a bunch of Markovian soldiers attacked him. During the fight, he let Painkiller out to defeat them. Now, Painkiller locked the real Khalil behind the firewall in his head, and is calling the shots. His mission is the same as it always was: Kill the Pierce family. Even with the finale next week, Jeff can’t catch a break.
Black Lightning airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on The CW
Previously on Black Lightning: